Meet Helen LeiNani Highland-Coslow

Helen LeiNani Highland-Coslow has worked 27 jobs in her 46 years. It was when she left her last one during the 2018 government shutdown that she decided to enroll at MiraCosta College.

Honored as Student Poet for the Class of 2021, Highland-Coslow graduates on the President’s List, as a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and as vice president of the Pacific Islander MANA community. With writings twice published in the MiraCosta College Tidepools magazine, Highland-Coslow graduates with an associate degree in English and is transferring to California State University, San Marcos next fall en route to a master’s and a Ph.D. before settling on a career as a college English professor.

“To come to MiraCosta super ignorant of the whole college experience, it’s been a wonderful ride, eye opening, liberating and insanely great,” said the mother of four who lives on a small family farm in Vista with 10 other family members, including uncles and aunts. “I’ve been exposed to so much here, age differences, gender differences, cultural differences, religious differences, political differences, and it’s all been so wonderfully rich and illuminating.”

Highland-Coslow had dedicated nearly half her life to raising her family—her oldest of four children is 22-year-old daughter Cheyenne and her youngest, Logan, is 11—but decided to enroll at MiraCosta College in 2018 after a federal shutdown resulted in the decimation of her hours at an accountant’s office. “I hated numbers anyway,” quipped Highland-Coslow. “But I love to write.”

Challenges have been many. Highland-Coslow lives with dyslexia and struggles financially. But that won’t stop her from reaching her goal of teaching college English and literature. She would like to specialize in a women’s study course that encompasses and centers around female authors and women throughout history.

“I’m just in love with women authors,” she said. “I think it’s so important that women see the work of other women and get inspired by that work.”

Inspire is what Highland-Coslow aims to achieve with her poem during commencement. “People can do great things when they thrive with a purpose,” she said.